German Estimates of American Troops 1917-1918
Posted 29 January 2007 - 08:46 AM
All of the documents were translated from Deutsch to English. I am somewhat skeptical of some of the translation, as it appears that the translator took some artistic license and put the material into terminology more common to America and the U.S. Army. None of what I took to be “license” appeared to change the sense of the original meaning; it just does not seem the way Germans would write.
In reading other military documents from the period, it was very common for writers to “couch” their writing. Writers rarely made positive statements. Hey almost invariably wrote in the passive voice and inserted modifiers like “apparently” and “supposed.” I am not sure if this was the style of the writing at that time or if no one wanted to make statements that they could be called to account for. In other words, the writer could always say, “I didn’t say the information was fact I said it was possible” and so forth. Put yourself into the place of a decision maker trying to make plans based on the information provided.
In the first of the following translated reports it is interesting that it took the Germans awhile to identify the U.S. 2d (Infantry) Division. This was probably because the German information source was “agents” in and around the ports that could easily identify units disembarking from transports. The Second Division was organized in France so did not arrive through the ports of debarkation as a unit.
My copy of this document was copy three and disposed as excess by the U.S. Army Military History Institute. This document was unclassified. You will see “Secret” at the top of some of the translated documents that is the original German security classification that in translation and assembled into this document was declassified. I consider this document as public domain and claim no copyright or any other prohibition from anyone copying my re-print of the document here.
I originally tried to scan the document into editable text. This copy of the document is a carbon copy (that’s right a real cc.) and was so badly translated I gave up using the edible version. So this is my three fingered technique reproduction of the text. I have tried as much as possible to retain the original format and made no attempt to fix syntax, spelling or typographical errors like words run together. I did leave out the hyphen in words at the end of sentences that were hyphened. I included the original page numbers to indicate page breaks.
One way to look at this analysis, by the Germans, is to put yourself into the U.S. military at the beginning of WWII. Based on some of the comments what would you look to change about tactics and training?
In the preface the translator commented:
Documents No. 6 to 9 (incl.) pertain to American tactics and combat value. Interesting are the marginal remarks and underlinings by Col von Rausch (in green) and other officers of the Section for Foreign Armies on the report on the Battle of St. Mihiel.
I identified the areas marked in the original with underlines in green. The comments are in green italics. All other under lined words are as in the original.
The use of the term “guerilla warfare,” on page 15 paragraph 5, is construed to mean unconventional warfare.
Image of the original contents page:
Posted 29 January 2007 - 08:50 AM
This folder contains documents of the Section for Foreign Affairs of the German General Headquarters (Oberste Herresleitung). These selected documents from various files and all reports about the Army of the United States of America, with the exception of some annexes, such as abbreviations of names of States, etc., have been copied to show how much the German G.H.Q. knew about American forces, and how it estimated their strength, capabilities and combat value.
Part I, of this folder contains selected documents translated into English
Documents No. 1, (dated 8 July 1918) and No. 2, (dated 22 August 1918), written by Colonel von Rauch, the Chief of the Section for Foreign Armies, to Section IIIb (Intelligence Service, Counter-Espionage, Press and Enlightenment) seem to indicate that some military authorities and German Press were underestimating the American effort.
Documents No. 3 (dated 19 Sept. 1918) and 4 (dated 2 July 1918), are a reply of the Section for Foreign Armies to a letter, I believe, of General Ludenndorff. I was unable to obtain that letter, in which Ludendorff apparently reproached Colonel von Rausch for not having estimated correctly the American effort.
Document No. 5 is an extract from “Report No. 19 about the Army of the United States of America”, dated 17 October 1918. This was the last of those reports prepared by the Section for Foreign Armies.
Documents No. 6 to 9 (incl.) pertain to American tactics and combat value. Interesting are the marginal remarks and underlinings by Col von Rausch (in green) and other officers of the Section for Foreign Armies on the report on the Battle of St. Mihiel. Judging by the hand writing, the final remark “Imbecility” was written by Geyer, now an active general in the German Army.
Part II, contains in German all “reports about the Army of the United States of America”, all documents translated into English and contained in Part I, a report on American training, and a draft of a memorandum of General Ludendorff on the subject of front propaganda among American troops with remarks by his principal staff officers.
The documents contained herein are true copies of the originals on file in the German Reichsarchiv.
September 23, 1935.
Representative of the
Historical Section. A.W.C.
Posted 29 January 2007 - 08:52 AM
Copy G.H.Q., 8. July, 1918
Section for Foreign Armies
In the German Press the reports about transports of American troops to France are still being branded as exaggerations and bluff. This may be good for the maintenance of morale in Germany, but there are serious objections to it. As a matter of fact, great masses of American troops have been landed in Europe. The time will come, when this will be known in Germany too. Then the assertion can be made - and not wholly without justification - that the public has been misinformed and even intentionally misled.
I estimate that at present there are 20 divisions in France. 11 divisions have already been identified by capture of prisoners from their units at the front. The ration strength of a division, according to American documents, is 23,000 men. Accordingly, 20 divisions make a total of 460,000 men. And in addition to the combat troops with their trains, etc., there are numerous troops of other kinds. In regards to organization the Americans are proceeding on an even larger scale than the English. Money is no object. They are enlarging French ports, building factories in France, extending the railroad nets, etc. We may assume therefore that the number of troops in France in the lines of communication is about equal to that of combat troops; that is about 460,000 men. This makes a grand total of 920,000 men.
The American report, that one million men have been shipped to Europe, may therefore be correct and should not be simply characterized as intentionally misleading.
Nevertheless, the assistance of the Americans is in some respects a bluff. In their conceit they imagine that with the masses of men brought over, they can bring about at once a decision in favor of the Entente. For that purpose, they want to organize an army of one million men in still less time than the English did. They do not take into consideration that the English had in peace time a nucleus of excellent professional soldiers from which 12 divisions were formed. The American peace time army had not in the slightest degree the value of the English army which had had experience in numerous colonial wars.
The individual American has proven himself a courageous and estimable opponent. Whether the troops consisting of draftees only will prove as good in combat, remains to be seen.
The Americans in their delusions of grandeur do not seem to have taken into account that an army of millions does not become merely through human masses and machines a useful instrument of war, but that a thoroughly trained corps of officers and non-commissioned officers, a good training of troops, especially of the artillery and technical troops, is essential.
They expect, perhaps, to make us disposed to peace merely by the fact of the presence in France of their numerous divisions.
I ask too consider whether it would not be advisable to influence the public opinion in Germany in the above sense. Then, should the American masses really participate in major operations, the German people will be prepared for it and not become frightened by their great numbers, but will know that our war experienced troops will get the better of the Americans too.
In my estimation, it would be well to continue to characterize the reports about the number of Americans as bluff and to disparage their achievements in neutral countries; it is my opinion anyway that propaganda in foreign countries must often be different from that at home.
In addition, I should like to remark that the War Press Bureau as well as the Military Bureau of the Foreign Office are receiving regularly the “Reports about the Army of the United States”, which keep them currently well informed as to the achievements of Americans, especially in the transportation of their army to France.
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Posted 29 January 2007 - 08:53 AM
DOCUMENT NO. 2.
Section for Foreign Armies G.H.Q., 22 August 1918,
To IIIb (for War Press Bureau)
This article in the first morning edition of “Koelinische Zeitung” of 20 August about the American peril presents a false picture.
American achievements are being greatly underestimated. In the estimate of tonnage only American tonnage available in September 1917, has been taken into account.
In the meantime, the fleet of United States has been considerably enlarged by new construction, confiscation of neutral ships and purchase of Japanese steamers. According to the Admiralty Staff, the United States had available in May about 100 ships, of which 35 were large steamers. The number is still increasing. The transport of 300,000 men per month is therefore technically possible.
It is stated, that the strength of the army of the United States on 1 April 1917, was 200,000 men and 687,000 men were drafted into the National Army. That is correct. However the number of voluntary enlistments is underestimated. Actually about 632,000 volunteers were enlisted. Accordingly, the total strength on 1 April 1917 was 1,527,000 men. The enlistment of additional 700,000 is correct. This, however, did not take place in June but much earlier. Already in April and May 423,000 men had been drafted. Added to that number must be 292,000 in June and 360,000 in July. The total strength of the army at present must therefore be 2,602,000 men. For August the enlistment of 300,000 men is provided for.
The statement that on 5 June a second increment has been called to arms is probably a mix-up. According to a change in the draft laws, all men between 3 June 1917 and 5 June 1918, who become 21 years of age, are to be drafted. However, a draft of men of this class has not yet taken place. Thus the number of the many conscripts not yet called to colors is increased by another 700,000 men.
The Expeditionary Force is composed of only to small of old service men. The majority are volunteers and draftees. As a whole in value they are not inferior to the old regular army soldiers. The training in America is deficient and incomplete. It is, however, completed in France under English and French supervision.
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Comment: In the second paragraph the date 1 April 1917 is incorrectly stated twice and should be 1 April 1918.
Posted 29 January 2007 - 08:57 AM
DOCUMENT NO. 3.
Section for Foreign Armies G.H.Q., 19 Sept. ‘18.
No. 17 181
In reply to Ia of 18 Sept. ‘18
Subject: Information about
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The intention of the Americans top use their new army against Germany has not been doubted. Reports as to organization and recruiting gave always a sufficiently comprehensive picture of the development of the army. Until the spring of 1918, the Americans accomplished somewhat less than we had expected. After May 1918, however, the troop transports quickly caught up with the schedule. The increase in the number of troops transported per month has surprised us. The exploitation possibly of American, English and neutral tonnage for troop transports has been underestimated. More was expected from the effects of U-boat warfare.
The evaluation of the American efforts and accomplishments has been made known from time to time to the various military authorities by this Section through the information bulletins entitled “Reports about the Army of the United States of America”. The American assistance was estimated in these reports as follows:
At the time of entrance into the war, the army was estimated as having about 250,000 men (7,000 officers, 125,000 men of the Regular Army, 125,000 men of the National Guard).
As to the further development of the army the following was stated 5 April 1917;
“According to all indications an increase and a reorganization of the United States Army is to be expected. This should take considerable time. There is no lack off men. The procurement of materials will be, in view of the very well developed war industries, comparatively simple. The main difficulty will be the lack of instructor personnel.”
In July 1917, a survey was made of the new organization of the American Army, as well as of the mobilization and execution of draft laws. The military accomplishments of the United States to be expected up to the end of 1917 were estimated on 25 July as follows;
“Parts of the Regular Army have been transported already as an especially organized expeditionary force to France. During the first part of June, General Pershing arrived there with his staff as commander-in-chief. The first troops organized as units landed end of June. Already troops of all arms are supposed to have arrived. More transports are being expected.
For the timebeing the regular Army will be able to furnish only a limited number of trained troops for the expeditionary force, due to the fact that it must provide to a great extent the nuclei and training personnel for the numerous new organizations. Since the National Guard and the new army require a rather long period of time for their organization, training and equipping the mass of these troops will not be ready for transportation before the beginning of 1918. The number of troops that will then be transported will depend upon on the shipping available.
It may therefore be expected that this year the United States will be able to transport to the theater of war only an expeditionary force of one or two divisions. In addition, a rather large number of special and labor troops may be expected.
An especially strong aid by furnishing aviators has been promised the Entente.
It can be assumed that to this time there is not more than one division in France, and that its field equipment is not complete. The debarkation has taken place in several ports of France and also England. St. Nazaire may be considered as the principal port. Large camps and depots are supposed to be there.
The expeditionary force still needs training. This will take place at first in camps and later quiet fronts. American troops, when they first appear at the front, will have to be considered of the same value as new English divisions.”
This estimate turned out to be essentially correct.
On 11 December 1917, the possibility of an increase of the American Army in France until the Spring 1918 was estimated as follows:
“In France only the presence of the 1st Regular Army Division has been definitely established. Its units are at the front for training purposes. It has not yet been employed as a division. Its participation in an attack during winter is possible.
According to the latest reports it may be assumed that a short time ago the 26th and 42d (National Guard) Divisions started landing in France. American troops are supposedly also training in England. Altogether the total strength of American troops transported to Europe may have been increased to about 75,000 men.
The 26th and 42d Divisions are not to be expected at the front for the time being. They still need training. Until Spring 1918, they need not be taken into consideration as suitable for offensive operations.
America is supposed to have obliged itself to send until Spring of 1918, an army of 450,000 men to France. It is possible that the Entente has again urgently requested aid of America at the Paris Conference. The large scale preparations being made by Americans (camp and railway construction, improvement of harbors, building of factories indicate that strong American reinforcements are expected.
The transportation and supply of American troops depend on the shipping available. A larger number than 450,000 men is hardly to be expected because of the lack of shipping. The mass of this army cannot be fit to participate in offensive operations in the Spring of 1918. Therefore the value of American troops will at first be in relieving English-French divisions on quiet fronts.”
At the same time in the “Estimate of the Military Situation of the Entente in the Winter of 1917/18” the following was stated about the United States:
“The United States are about to organize an army of 50 divisions. So far only three divisions have landed in France, one of which has been sent to the front for training. The other two still require considerable training behind the front.
Until Spring 1918, the American forces can attain a strength of about 15 divisions. The majority of these divisions will be suitable for employment on quiet fronts. Only the three divisions now in France may be expected to participate in a Spring offensive.
The officers are not trained for the conditions of the great war. An independent employment of larger American units is difficult situation is therefore for the time being quite out of the question.
Replacement, armament and equipment of American troops are good. Training is still deficient. However, the first organization placed into the front lines fought well during a German attack. It must be expected therefore that the American soldier after further training and war experience will be a worthy opponent.”
According to the above, the Americans, until the Spring of 1918, have been rather overestimated than underestimated. At the beginning of the German Offensive, the Expeditionary force had not reached the expected strength of 15 divisions. The total number of troops landed in France until March (incl) was only 370,000 men (instead of 450,000).
At the urgent request of the Entente, America from April 1918 on increased the monthly transports considerably. In an announcement of the American Secretary of War in July 1918, the following figures are given:
May 1,780 men
June 12,261 “
July 12,968 “
August 18,383 “
September 32,523 “
October 38,259 “
November 33,016 “
December 48,340 “
January 46,776 Men
February 48,227 “
March 83,811 “
April 117 ,212 “
May 224,345 “
June 276,372 “
The number of troops transported from May 1918 on is not immediately perceived or believed. Considering our previous experiences, these reports could not be taken for granted. That they were true was believed only after identifications were obtained and definitely confirmed. Since most of the newly arrived troops were held for training purposes far behind the front, reports of them were at first very few and were obtained only considerable time after their arrival.
The Americans announced openly by radio from time to time the number of troops transported to Europe. The announcements were therefore taken as propaganda and considered false. Previous experiences justified that assumption.
Also views here as to shipping tonnage necessary for large troop movements made the great number of troops transported appear unbelievable. As a matter of fact, the Americans made better use of the interned neutral tonnage and rebuilt German ships than was estimated. Besides, as we heard later, England, by limiting its own requirements, handled with its own shipping two-thirds of the troop transports. Also this was not considered possible nor taken into account. America did not transport completely equipped troop units. Armament, vehicles, guns and horses, and to some extent other war materials, were furnished by the Entente in France. In such manner, it was possible to increase the troop-carrying of ships considerably.
The production capacity of the war industries of the Entente was apparently greater than could have been expected considering our own heavy losses of materials.
Comprehensive estimate of the America aid was made the first part of July.
See Enclosure. (Translator’s Note: This was probably “Report No. 15”, dated 2 July ‘18, which follows this document).
Since that time the following figures have been ascertained:
Until the first part of September, a total of 3,000,000 have been enlisted in the American Army.
According to official American announcements 1,600,000 were shipped to Europe.
In France 35 divisions have been identified.
In America, since the 1st of July, 15 new divisions have been organized.
Accordingly, there are here still another 25 divisions.
In accordance with the new draft laws, which extend compulsory military service to all men of the age between 18 and 45, America is able to enroll several more millions of recruits.
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Posted 29 January 2007 - 08:58 AM
DOCUMENT NO. 4.
Chief of the General Staff of the G.H.Q. 8 July ‘18
Section for Foreign Armies.
Report No. 15
About the Army of the United States of America.
American Troop Transports to Europe.
Prior to the entrance of the United States into the war, there were already in the service of the Entente about 1,500 Americans. They were in the air service, in the service of supplies or hospital units.
End of June 1917, the first troops of the expeditionary force were landed. Up to Fall, they had reached a strength of about 40,000 men. From these troops the 1st Division was organized. This division appeared at the front the end of October.
According to information from reliable agents, America obligated itself to send to France, until the first part of April 1918, a total of 450,000 to 500,000 men. Of these, two divisions, (the 26th and 42d) of the newly organized National Guard arrived by the end of 1917. There arrived also several separate regiments from which was formed the 2d Division.
Under the assumption that the United States would live up to the promises made, the American aid to the Entente, until the Spring of 1918, was estimated at approximately 15 divisions. (See: “Military Situation of the Entente in the Winter 1917/18”, Section for Foreign Armies, No. 6, 730a, of December 1917). In addition, the arrival of numerous service of supply and labor troops had to be taken into account.
At the beginning of the German Offensive the expected strength of American troops had not been reached. France and England were disappointed. At the urgent request of the Entente the United States accelerated the shipment of troops considerably. At this time 7 or 8 American divisions are at the front. One other division has been withdrawn from the front, and is now in the rear area. In addition, 9 to 10 other divisions are supposed to be in Europe. They are still training. Accordingly, it must be assumed that a total of about 18 divisions is in Europe.
A steady increase of American forces is to be expected. In the United States there are still another 26 divisions. The government intends to transport all of them in the course of this year.
The determination of America to place its whole power into service is not to be doubted.
Nothing is yet known about the organization of additional new divisions at home. However, that must be taken into account. Enrollments of recruits have taken place in April and May. They are supposed to be continued on a large scale. Thus there will be no lack of men for replacements and new organizations.
The possibility of transporting 26 divisions this year and the necessary supplies for the American Army depends on the shipping tonnage available. Judging by the American achievements in transportation during the past several months, the solution of the transportation problem is not impossible. In May and June each, at least 4 divisions have been landed in Europe. In addition , great masses of materials and provisions for the army have been shipped. Moreover, some of the shipping still supplies England, France and Italy with food. A temporary increase in troop transports is quite possible, should after the harvest the shipment of food supplies to Europe be suspended.
The interruption of transports by U-boat warfare to had date no decisive effect.
The combat value of the American divisions, considering their still limited war experience and insufficient training, is as a whole good. On the defensive, even the greenest troops are worthy opponents. The American soldier is courageous, strong and clever. Casualties are not feared. The leadership, however, is not yet up to mark. When in action as larger independent units, the Americans will not be able to dispense with French guidance for the time being.
In estimating the combat value of Americans, it must not be overlooked that the troops, which until now appeared at the front, must be considered “crack troops” (elite). Whether the divisions which will arrive later, will be of equal value, remains to be seen. The 77th Division, identified a short time ago, showed a decidedly poor morale and inferior esprit. From its deficient training the conclusion must be drawn, that it was sent to the front too soon.
Remarkable, even in among the good American troops, is the indifference as to the aims of the war. They know not for what they fight. After they serve for some length of time at the front, it may be quite possible therefore that they will become less eager to fight.
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Posted 29 January 2007 - 09:00 AM
Chief of the General Staff of the 17 Oct. 1918.
Section for Foreign Armies.
Report No. 19
About the Army of the United States of America.
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1.) Troops in Europe.
It is estimated that 39 divisions are now in France. Since the issue of Report No. 18, the following new divisions have been identified:
88th Div. Through capture of prisoners
7th “ ) through prisoners who had been transferred
39th “ ) as replacements to other divisions.
85th “ )
81st “ ) Through statements of
84th “ ) prisoners.
36th “ ) Through newspaper
86th “ ) reports.
The regiments of the 93d (Negro) Division are attached to French divisions. The 93d Division is therefore not to be considered as one of the independent American divisions.
On 12 September, northeast of St. Mihiel, a prisoner of the 2d Cavalry Regiment was captured. There is no information about the other 5 cavalry regiments, which, according to statements of prisoners, are in France.
Number of troops transported.
July 300,000 men
August 250,000 “ (according to other reports 315,000)
September 311,000 “ ( “ “ “ “ only 250,000)
Up to the 5th of October, 1,850,000 men are supposed to have been shipped from the United States. For the Summer of 1919, 4 million American troops for France are provided in the budget.
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Posted 29 January 2007 - 09:07 AM
DOCUMENT NO. 6.
Intelligence Officer of G.H.Q. 23 April ‘18.
With Army Headquarters “C”.
J. - No. 1819/18.
Sect. For Foreign
No. 25/4 IV.
As to the combat value of American troops on the defensive, the following statements of non-commissioned officers and grenadiers, who as members of the 24th Shock Battalion participated in an attack against Seicheprey on 21 April 1918, are submitted:
(1) Under-officer Hummel and Grenadiers Karasiewicz and Baier:
American resistance in front of the main line of resistance, in the main line of resistance and in the supporting positions in front of the village of Seicheprey, was stubborn. Every man had to be overpowered individually. The light machine guns of the Americans fired up to the last moment. Since the troops occupying the village did not want to come out of their dugouts, but defended the entrances, individual combats, man against man, took place. Strong points had to be neutralized by pioneers with explosives.
Our men believe that the desperate resistance of the Americans is due to the fact that they have been told that the Germans kill all prisoners.
(2) Grenadier Ratey:
On the defensive the American is an opponent who must in no way be under-estimated. He does not defend himself in trenches, but in groups and individually in machine gun nests, in nests of riflemen and in dugouts. In dugouts he defends himself to the last moment.
For instance, into a small dugout two hand grenades were thrown, machine guns and rifles were fired into it, and still the men did not come out. They surrendered only after the dugout was fired. In spite of violent artillery fire, a man with a machine gun remained in his nest in a tree. He did not surrender, but had to shot down.
Prisoners had to be handled with great caution. It happened repeatedly that they escaped in an unguarded moment, or tried to free themselves by force. During one such attempt a German officer was shot down by an American. One American, completely surrounded, still tried to defend himself. He had to be knocked down. The American makes frequent use of his trench knife.
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Although we know from experience that troops participating in a battle are apt to over-estimate the combat value of their opponents, there can be no doubt that the 1st Battalion of the 102d American Infantry Regiment defended itself stubbornly in close combat at Seicheprey.
Section for Foreign Armies
Int. Officer of Army Group Gallwitz
Posted 29 January 2007 - 09:11 AM
DOCUMENT NO. 7.
Army Unit “C” 19 May ‘18
Headquarters. 21 May ‘18
Ia - No. 1579 secret.
Combat Methods and Combat Value of Americans.
After the experiences during the battles of April against American troops some supplements to the report of this Headquarters, Id No. 806 of 5 March ‘18., are necessary.
The submission of this supplementary report was delayed by judicial investigations which were necessitated by allegations that Americans conducted themselves contrary to International Rules of Land Warfare. Nothing, however, could be proven incontestably.
As to American combat methods certain quite definite principles may be deduced, especially from the Operation “Kirschblute” carried out by the 78th Reserve Division on 20 April.
The organization of the defense corresponds to that of the French. The ground in front of the position is of great depth and held lightly. In estimating the troops occupying the outpost area, the great combat strengths of the American companies (about 210 men) must be taken into consideration. As to the organization of the outpost area troops consisting of two companies, see Enclosure 1.*
Organization of the 26th American Division in Seicheprey Sector, see Enclosure 2.*
At the beginning of our attack on 20 April, at 5:50 AM, only two small outposts were observed in the forward enemy trenches. These outposts withdrew hurriedly after firing pyrotechnics from pistols. The other outposts apparently had already withdrawn during the artillery preparation to the centers of resistance of their respective platoons, located further to the rear. The forward enemy trenches were therefore crossed without resistance. After that, however, the attack was met by Americans stubbornly defending themselves in dugout groups of a section to a platoon.
Not one American surrendered without a fight.
During the capture of the trenches northwest of Seicheprey a counterattack, attempted from a center of resistance at Point t along the road: Seicheprey - St. Baussant, was repulsed.
* Translator’s Note: Not be found.
In the southeast corner of the Remieres Forest, in a trench leading in the direction of the road: Seicheprey - St. Baussant, an American nest held out until the afternoon in spite of a double envelopment. We were able to overpower it only after a strong bombardment of artillery.
In the village of Seicheprey fierce fights developed around houses and dugouts. These ended in most cases only after annihilation of the Americans who simply refused to surrender.
In the Remieres Forest Americans defended themselves in several instances from tree tops with pistols and light machine guns.
With the exception of the one attempted counterattack mentioned above, the enemy did not take offensive action during the attack.
The two companies of the attacked battalion, which were located as reserves on the Beaumont - Rucken, did not put into appearance.
The moving up of troops which were further to the rear did not succeed because of the gassed terrain. (Statements of prisoners who were brought in later). The French, however, located east of the 28th American Division, attempted during the afternoon a counterattack from the direction of Jury Forest. This attack was promptly noticed and repulsed.
The hostile artillery was held down almost entirely during the attack by heavy gassing that had proceeded. It was 10:15 AM before a number of reinforcing batteries started firing from rear positions. In the course of the afternoon, however, we succeeded in weakening considerably the firepower of those batteries too.
From then on, the enemy acted very cautiously. He in no way interfered with our withdrawal to the positions of departure which began at 9:30.
It seems that the enemy did not re-occupy his old positions until between 5 and 6 AM on 21 April. He did this under protection of heavy artillery fire.
Summing up, it may be said that in regards to the combat value of the Americans that the individual man has fought very well. The men make physically a very good impression. The soldierly bearing according to German standards is very lax.
The American leadership in combats up to now has been found wanting. In the fighting around Seicheprey no influence of command on artillery or infantry action was noticed. There was no planned employment of reserves for counterattacks or coordinated artillery fire on points of penetration.
V. s. d. A. C. K.
The Chief of the General Staff
Frh. Von Ledebur
Army Group Gallwitz
Army Command 10
235 Inf. Div.
Insp. Field Recruit Depot
Headquarters: Ia, b, c, d, H, Arty
Pi, Kofl, Koflak, Koluft, IIb,
Posted 29 January 2007 - 09:14 AM
DOCUMENT NO. 8.
Telegram of 12 June 1918.
To G.H.Q., Operations Section Ia.
The Attacks of the Americans.
So far the attacks of the Americans were enterprises carried out with a maximum strength of up to two battalions. They took place after a short and sudden artillery preparation similar to French raids carried out by patrols. Our infantry was held down by the artillery, but in many instances the hostile infantry attack did not follow immediately and was soon repulsed with heavy losses by out rifle and machine gun fire. In the last attack the cooperation with the artillery was better and more effective. Initial successes, even when they placed our infantry in disagreeable situation, were not exploited.
The American infantry attacked in dense skirmishers, usually in two waves. Close up followed massed units of varying strengths. The American goes ahead recklessly; casualties are disregarded; in close combat, often with trench knives, numerical superiority asserted themselves. Leadership was nowhere noticeable.
The artillery acts like French. It has not been determined, whether it is American artillery. To date statements of prisoners have given no information about it. If it is American, or partly American artillery, then most likely French officers are still with it.Probably not. The French want to make the Americans like it.
In broken terrain American troops show themselves, in undertakings of small and smallest detachments, clever and enterprising. In this kind of minor fighting they are inventive in tricks and deceptions. In an attack covered by smoke, during which they succeeded in getting into the rear of our troops, they deceived our men by calls in German, like “here come men of the Fortieth, don’t shoot.”
In conclusion, it may be stated, that the American soldier is courageous, strong and clever. He is at his best in guerilla warfare. The manner in which larger units attack is not up-to-date and leadership is poor. Neither the command nor the troops are afraid of suffering losses when desirable terrain is to be gained.
In warfare of movement the Americans should be considered for the time being inferior to us. In cooperation with artillery the right thing is strived after but not always attained.
(Translator’s Note: Some comments on recent French counterattacks follow).
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Posted 29 January 2007 - 09:20 AM
DOCUMENT NO. 9.
Chief if the General Staff
Of the Field Army
Section for Foreign Armies
rec. 25 Sept. ‘18, left…
Intelligence Officer of G.H.Q.
With Headquarters of Army Unit “C“. 22 September ‘18
J. No. 3538/18.
Americans in a Major Operation.
(On 12 Sept. ‘18 against Army Unit “C”.)
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At least 9 American and 3 French divisions participated in the attack of the 12th of September under the command of General Pershing.
It is not known how many divisions were in reserve.
Of the above 9 divisions were:
3 (1st, 2d, 42d,) excellent attack divisions;
2 (4th, 26th) good combat divisions, which have stood the test in major operations in other parts of the front;
3 (5th, 89th, 90th) divisions which were in trenches either in front of Army Unit “C” for first time or which had occupied front lines in other sectors without fighting;
1 (34th) division, which followed in reserve and had never been in the front lines before.
The attack was preceded by an excellent 4 hour artillery preparation with some trench mortar fire. The batteries were well adjusted not only on the front line trenches, but also especially well on routes of approach and rear dugouts.
During fire intervals the enemy pushed forward strong officers’ patrols, to which were attached light machine guns.
The infantry attack followed immediately behind the last rolling barrage, very rapidly and deeply echeloned with an extraordinarily large mass of troops.
The attack hit the west front of the line: Champlon - south of Seuzy along a front 15 km wide. It was carried out by 2 French divisions and one American (26th) division, and advanced only as far as ST. Remy and, in forest of Vaux les Plemeix, up to the artillery positions.
The main attack hit the south front of Army Unit “C” from Richcourt to Fey en Haye along a front of 16 km. 8 American and 1 French division attacked here. The enemy succeeded in advancing in one place to north of Thiaucourt. This made the St. Mihiel Salient untenable.
Thereupon, the evacuation of the salient and the withdrawal into the Michel Position were ordered. They were executed according to plan.
The advance of the American infantry in the attack was altogether schematic. Great clumsiness was shown in the movement over the terrain of the waves of rifleman which followed each other closely. The shock troops hesitated when met by the least resistance, and gave the impression of awkwardness and helplessness. Neither officers nor men knew how to make use of the terrain. When met by resistance, they did not look for cover but went back erect. The American apparently does not know how to work himself forward or backward by crawling on the ground or by rapid rushes. At first he lies still and then tries to get up again. In fighting on shell-torn terrain the American is wholly inexperienced. He does not know how to stick to shell holes.
But why then, in spite of that, the success?
The individual American is just as ignorant as to how to conduct himself in the attack as the mass. Undoubtedly, he is basically courageous, but nevertheless he attacks timidly. Hand grenades drive him to flight. ?
The American is obviously afraid of being taken prisoner. If this is threatening, he defends himself desperately to the last and does not raise his hands. This seems to be the result of propaganda to the effect that Germans treat their prisoners cruelly.
The American is clever in use of machine guns. On the defensive he is stubborn and strengthens his resistance with very numerous machine guns.
The conduct of the infantry, as may be seen from the above, showed little military training.
The artillery was alright as long as it fired for the attack from initial positions. The firing procedure was good. It opened fire very quickly on targets as they appeared. This is due apparently to its plentiful technical equipment. The artillery was able to open in the shortest time well conducted fire.
The cooperation between infantry and artillery was perfect. When the infantry encountered machine gun nests, it withdrew a little and very soon an artillery preparation by accompanying batteries set in. Technically the artillery is well trained, but in a moving situation it lacks the necessary flexibility and mobility.
A great number of tanks had been placed in readiness for the attack. However, use was made only of a small number, because the mass employment of the infantry resulted in the desired success.
The command was throughout bad and clumsy. The enemy has obviously very many officers, but these officers lack all qualities of leadership.
Unmistakable was the perplexity after the initial objective was reached. The enemy was helpless when confronted by a new situation and unable to exploit success.
Like the English!
The French would have been much more dangerous in such a situation. The entire lack of military skill was also evident in the pursuit. No advantage was taken of favorable opportunities for attacks on flanks and envelopments.
The higher command also did not know how to grasp newly arisen situations and how to exploit them. It was capable of preparing the plans for the attack, but it failed to function when the infantry, rushing straight ahead, had reached its objective. The higher command was not familiar with the tactical principles pertaining to the employment of divisional units and their use for destruction of the enemy. This made it possible for Army Unit “C” under the most difficult conditions possible to break contact with the enemy in one night and to occupy positions within a short distance and be again ready for combat.
In general it may be said, that the American seems to be a very chivalrous foe. He does not fire on recognized stretcher bearers.
The American is too of a dilettante, and therefore also in a major attack needs not to be feared. Until now, our men had a much higher opinion of the Americans, due to the fact that in patrol undertakings they had shown themselves dashing soldiers.
In spite of that our troops retreated?
Out troops had expected much more of them in a major battle. In spite of some local reverses, their confidence of being able to deal with the Americans has been raised. Nonsense!
Sect. For Foreign Armies
Int. Officers of West Front
Command and General Staff School, Sedan
Ia, b, d, Arty,
Posted 29 January 2007 - 09:22 AM
G-2 1st Division A.E.F.
No. 63 TARTIGNY, June 29, 1918
June, 28 12 h., to June 29, 12 h.
ACTIVITY OF THE ENEMY
I. Infantry: Very little machine-gun fire on our front lines during the night. A few trench mortar shells of medium caliber on Point 2610 and the valley southeast of VILLERS-TOURNELLE yesterday morning.
A raiding party, consisting of five officers and 85 men penetrated the enemy front lines in the region of Chateau de JENELIS this morning at 3 h. at point 2804 and proceed to point 29506, without encountering serious resistance. The enemy was taken completely by surprise and our men returned twenty minutes later bringing 33 prisoners, one of whom was an officer. Several dugouts and machine guns were destroyed. Our casualties were extremely light.
VI. Miscellaneous: Order of battle confirmed by capture of one officer, five N.C.O.s, and 25 privates, belonging to the 118th Reserve Regiment, in the vicinity of Point 2906 at 3 h., this morning***
201-20.1: Intelligence Report.
G-2 1st Division A.E.F.
TARTIGNY, June 29, 1918.
Report on prisoners captured in the Parc de Jenlis on the morning of June 29, 1918.
3. Order of Battle. Confirmed. The 118th Reserve Regiment appeared to be holding the Parc de JENLIS, from about point 2806 to 2801. On its right is probably the 271st Reserve Regiment and on its left, the 83d Reserve Regiment.
4. At the present time, the regiment appears to have one battalion in line (the 1st), one battalion in support, and one at rest (near LIGNIERS). The rotation appears to be from front to support, and thence to rest. Reliefs take place at intervals of from 6 to 8 days.
5. The battalion in line has two companies on the western edge of the Parc de JENLIS (from north to south the first and third). The second is reported to be in reserve, while the fourth may be occupying the southern edge of the wood (Prisoners are not certain about this point).
The 1st Company extends from the northern edge of Bois de FONTAINE to about Point 2004. Both platoons are in the first line trench ***. One squad, however, is slightly to the rear, engaged in digging and laying wire. During the day, the company sends out to outposts, and during the night four. These outposts are held by two men. None of them have machine guns. They are located about 40 meters in front of the main trench (referred to above), and are protected by a belt of wire about 30 meters in front of them. ***
6. Losses: The first Company has lost about 40 men since its arrival in the sector. It has not received any reinforcements recently. It is stated that the reason the 118th res. Regt. Took over the 83 res. Regt. Sector, is that the latter suffered very severe losses at the time of out attack against CANTIGNY.
7. Miscellaneous: One of the prisoners heard it rumored that one of the battalions of the 83d Res. Regt. Had taken part in a counterattack against CANTIGNY. He further heard that the losses suffered by that battalion on that occasion had been very severe (one company practically wiped out).
Another prisoner speaking of the operation against CANTIGNY stated that until then they had not had a great deal of respect for American troops, but that the attack “was made with such dash” that all unanimously agreed that they must “beware of those Americans.” An officer explained our success at CANTIGNY by the fact “that this division is made up of picked troops.”
25th Reserve Division
June 29, 1918
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Report of the [50th Res. Inf.] Brig., No. 5419, June 29
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*** At 6:15 a.m., Res. Inf. Regt. 118 reports: At 3:45 a.m., the enemy placed surprise concentrations, observed by balloon on the left, on the outpost area and main line of resistance of subsectors A-1 and A-2. This shelling continued in undiminished strength until 4:15 a.m. At 4:15 a.m., the enemy attacked A-1 with two strong detachments in the following manner: One detachment pushed steamroller fashion through the draw between the 1st and 6th Companies (Regt. 270) and reached the M.G. nest “Adolf” on our right flank. The 2d detachment advanced frontally just south of the Keilenwald. [Gourd-shaped woods, unidentified]. Several men from 1st Co. are missing as well as both of the heavy M.G.’s. Lieut. Beringer (1st Co., Regt. 118), is missing. More detailed report will follow. 3 dead Americans of the 26th Inf. Regt. At 6:45, Regt. 118 reports: Lieut. Beringer commanded the reserve of the counterthrust. It was a fierce combat with hand grenades and pistols, lasting about 10-15 minutes. The commander of 1st Co., Regt. 118 escaped capture by a hairsbreadth. It is reported that there was also several Frenchmen in the assault detachment. The latter statement has not yet been definitely confirmed. The strength of the hostile assault detachment was 40-50 men. The enemy attacked frontally and was repulsed. The 2d Co., Regt. 118, reports everything in order, the adjacent unit on the right (Regt. 271) likewise. At 11 a.m., division requested the speedy transmission of American distinguishing marks, such as caps, buttons, uniforms. Since the area was kept under searching hostile M.G. fire the desired articles did not arrive until evening. At 12:05 division reports: Corps Hq. Wires: This morning an enemy assault detachment, advancing along boundary between 25th and 82d Res. Divs., succeeded in capturing one officer, several enlisted men and two M.G.’s from the 25th Res. Div. In the eastern portion of the [Granatwald grenade Woods - Chateau de Jenlis Woods].
Edited by US CANTEEN GURU, 29 January 2007 - 09:26 AM.
Posted 30 January 2007 - 08:53 PM
Very interesting reading. Thanks for posting it!
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